State of the Union Address: LA Angels Rotation
By Vincent Page
Going into the offseason, the LA Angels needed help in their rotation. Now, with a little over one week left in 2018, their starting group is starting to take shape.
Despite the LA Angels targeting the top-tier pitchers in this free agency class, they were unable to bring in any of the big name pitchers. Instead, they were able to sign Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill, both on one-year deals, to help solidify their rotation.
Now, we are starting to see what the Angels will be working with in 2019, and there is reason for optimism for the starting group. The 2019 season will be an interesting one to watch, especially if you have an eye for starters, and there’s many reasons why this group could be a strength for the Halos.
First off, there is Tyler Skaggs. Barring injury, Skaggs will be the Opening Day starter when the Angels take the mound on March 28th at the Oakland Coliseum. Skaggs has flashed elite stuff in his time with the Angels, and seemed to be putting it all together last year before a variety of injuries caused him to stutter. Now, a full, healthy offseason later, Skaggs is the undeniable ace for the staff.
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Following Skaggs is another southpaw in Andrew Heaney. Heaney is one pitcher to watch for the Angels, as despite ranking as league-average in ERA+ last season, the amount of times he missed bats and forced weak contact showed his numbers could have been even better.
Heaney was the Angels’ Nick Adenhart Award winner in 2018, given to the Halo’s best pitcher for the season. Heaney’s breaking ball and off speed pitches are borderline-elite, and if his fastball can gain velocity (average 92 MPH last season), he has all the makings of an All Star pitcher.
While those two are the undeniable top starters in this rotation, it gets cloudy after that. If I had to put money on who the #3 starter will be, Jaime Barria would be my choice. In his rookie year last season, Barria was outstanding as the right-handed pitcher owned a 3.41 ERA in 129.1 innings pitched. If you take out one bad start against Texas where Barria allowed six earned runs, his ERA drops all the way down to 3.09.
Overall, Barria walks a few too many batters and does not strikeout a ton of them. However, he knows how to win at-bats, and can usually be relied upon to go at least five innings in each start. He is a wild card for the rotation though, as he could improve vastly on his strikeouts but also faces the possibility of hitters figuring him out as the season progresses.
Next up, free agent signing Matt Harvey looks to continue his career resurgence. Harvey, still (somehow) only 29, is someone who offers a lot to this Angels team. While the chances of him regaining his stature from his younger years is there if he keeps improving his velocity, he offers value elsewhere too.
Once Harvey was traded to the Reds last season, 79% of his starts saw him going 5+ innings. In 9 of those 24 starts, he went 6+ frames. For a Halo team that severely overused their bullpen last season, Harvey is a solid veteran addition whether he returns to All Star status or not.
Harvey will likely be followed by fellow free agent signee Trevor Cahill. Last season for the rival A’s, Cahill produced a 3.76 ERA. Even if he does regress to his career-average 4.08 ERA, Cahill is still a solid bottom-of-rotation arm. He does offer some upside though if he can continue improving on his strikeout and walk numbers in 2019.
While these five are the likely starters at the beginning of the season, injuries and poor play can and likely will mix things up. Felix Pena and Nick Tropeano are candidates for the rotation as well, especially if the Angels opt for a six-man rotation again. JC Ramirez is also a name to watch should he return to Spring Training healthy.
They also have prospects on the way. Griffin Canning and Jose Suarez are two guys who likely will be able to contribute in the majors at some point this season. While the Angels will not want to rush two high-level prospects, it will be just as important to not keep them waiting if the team is contending come summer.
Overall, the rotation was seen as a weakness not too long ago. Now, the Angels have guys with high-upside and similarly high floors filling out their rotation. While they could still use one more veteran pitcher to serve as insurance should a starter go down, they may be able to find one cheap later on in the offseason. For right now though, this Angels rotation is ready to roll.